• Confessions of a Community College Dean

    In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.


A Question for Education Historians

Why is the college year so much shorter than the high school year?

December 16, 2019

Why is the college year so much shorter than the high school year?

Admittedly, there’s some variation here. But generally, high school years are about 10 months long, and college years are about eight, with a month in the middle. I’m seeing a small version of it at home this week, as TB has returned from college just in time for TG’s “cram everything in before the break” week. It’s most dramatic in the summer, though, with colleges often finishing in mid-May and high schools going until mid- or even late June.

The disparate calendars make dual enrollment a logistical challenge. They also create weird disconnects for parents.

The only theory I can come up with, and I’m simply conjecturing here, is that K-12 doubles as childcare. College doesn’t. But I don’t know if that’s why they’re different, or if that’s a post-hoc rationalization for why they’re different. It could be something as simple as path dependence.

At community colleges, we have many students who are also parents themselves. They see the disconnect personally.

As longtime readers know, I don’t think the academic calendar was handed down from the mountaintop. I see it very much as a contrivance, and one that could be rethought. In this case, two academic calendars exist simultaneously, and they’re significantly different. But before diving too deeply into alternatives, it’s helpful to know the rationale for the current system.

Folks who’ve studied this more deeply than I have: Why are the two sectors’ calendars so different?


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